Coronavirus – Know Your Rights Bailiffs , by Alan Murdie

At the present time bailiff enforcement should stop to prevent spread of the virus. There has been an announcement that evictions of domestic dwellings are suspended, but this advice should apply to all other forms of civil enforcement. Creditors should also review enforcement and suspend their instructions to bailiffs and tell them to stop collection activity.

You should

  • Keep the door closed in the unlikely event the bailiff calls in person;

And this time you should also complain to the Creditor if threatened or receiving a visit;

  • If  receiving a letter from the bailiffs you should contact the Creditor and complain that enforcement activity is threatened and point out the objection on health grounds.
This is particularly so if  you fall into one of the following categories  below: * the elderly;  *people with a disability;  * the seriously ill;  * the recently bereaved;  * single parent families;  * pregnant women;  * unemployed people; and,  * those who have obvious difficulty in understanding, speaking or reading English.

Bailiffs should withdraw and contact the creditor

The National Guidance for enforcement agents provides for creditors to take back the debt in one of these cases; bailiffs are also supposed to use discretion

Should a debtor be identified as vulnerable, creditors should be prepared to take control of the case, at any time, if necessary, and call off the bailiffs.

There is a test of ‘appropriateness ‘

The time and situation we are in nationally is clear an occasion where ‘appropriateness’  applies – it is wholly inappropriate to use enforcement against goods at this time. Indeed, not merely inappropriate but wholly unreasonable but could even be potentially unlawful not to suspend action. Creditors remain jointly and severally liable for the actions of their enforcement agents with regard to wrongful instructions and failure to use discretion.

In summary  you

  •  Consider making formal complaints, if clients are able;
  • Contact the creditor and inform them of what is being done on their behalf  (it is possible some may not know)
  • The creditor should be challenged as to why you are using bailiffs at this time and warned that door-to-door collection methods pose a threat to public health;
  • Keep a note and list those creditors who proves difficult and do not commit to stopping enforcement activity at this time.
This is also an opportunity to deal with cases by way of full and final settlement, offering a lesser sum based on the what  you can afford at this point. This should be offered to the creditor, not the bailiff. These standards put particular emphasis on there being proper safeguards and protection for the vulnerable groups which overlap with at-risk groups for infection.

The role of creditors and authorities using bailiffs

Should a debtor be identified as vulnerable, creditors should be prepared to take control of the case, at any time, if necessary  and call off the bailiffs.

Paragraph of the National Standards state 14 states:

Creditors must consider the appropriateness of referring debtors in potentially vulnerable situations to enforcement agents and, if you choose to proceed, must alert the enforcement agent to this situation.